If unions are so useful, why is their membership going down?
I can’t believe that we have considered ourselves free when only 23 states have been right-to-work.
Have unions been useful? You bet your sweet bippy they have. There was a time when frightened immigrants, who didn’t know much of the language, and less of the law, were threatened, forced, and fired upon when they attempted to band together to negotiate better pay, safety measures, and reduced working hours with a management who up to that point had held all the cards.
And who can forget the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire? Women locked in factory rooms, sewing all day, and when a fire began in all the fluff floating around, they were trapped. This sort of thing is still going on in countries all over the world, where the local workforce is illiterate, desperate, and has few other options.
Unions perform a useful service for those who don’t feel powerful enough to confront management on their own. Those who can easily or fairly easily be replaced—those in positions where there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential employees waiting in the wings. Where employees, both current and potential, have a tradition of disempowerment—never having been in control of their own lives.
So, I get it. Unions are a force for good where they are needed. And they have gotten the U.S. 98% of the way to equaling the playing field between those who have the ability to exercise power individually and those who need a backup. What seems to be happening, as with many other socially progressive ideas, is that the focus continues to be on the remaining 2%, while other areas of the globe are still crying out for real reform.
We are spending massive amounts of time, energy, and money on attempting to bridge the gap between what we’ve got and utopia. It costs more and more to move the marker those last few incremental spaces, and the cost, in dollars and in lost freedoms, goes up and up.
It’s as though the current crop of do-gooders see all of the humanitarian strides that have been made in the past and think, “I want to do that!”. But they are living in the wrong century—or the wrong country. There is still plenty of injustice in going on in this old world of ours, but no matter how inflamed the news anchors and pundits get, most of it, the vast majority of it, occurs outside our borders.
As the great philosopher Sergeant Hulka opined in Stripes, “Lighten up, Francis.” The world that you are living in ain’t so bad. You want to make a big difference in the world? You want to change the face of humanity? Twenty-first century America is not the place to go. Most of the people here lead better lives than even the richest, most powerful people on the planet led just a century ago.
We have access to more entertainment, more knowledge, better food and more secure and comfortable housing than Franklin Roosevelt had. For all of the talk about a decent wage, union members are living pretty high on the hog. For some reason, liberals always want to compare their standard of living to the top 1%. Amazingly enough, it falls far short of that.
Why don’t they compare that standard of living to that of just a century and a half ago, when most people either struggled on farms, or sweated in factories? Or to the world outside the U.S. today, when most people either struggle on farms or sweat in factories?
Why is the standard the top few percent, who are of a different ilk altogether than those who need a union to make a living? It’s not logical to band together to set minimum and maximum wages and working hours, then to compare yourself to those who don’t follow either. The proper comparison is between union members and non-union employees who do the same jobs. And the unions keep saying that their members are doing better than those who are not represented.
Which is why I am confused. If unions are still as valuable as they were when they began, why is their membership declining? Why are they so upset when a state says that union membership is not necessary to find a job? You’d think, if they were performing a necessary service, everyone would jump on the union bandwagon without having to be coerced to do so.
The unions claim that they are merely protecting themselves against the free riders—the people who take advantage of the deals the union is able to make, without contributing to the pot. (That argument sounds vaguely reminiscent of the one used to deploy Obamacare). It is the free riders who are destroying the system. If that’s the case, then let them. Allow enough people to quit the unions that the unions lose the clout they once carried.
Then wait and see. If employees find that they are once again powerless to prevent management pressure to lower wages, remove safeguards, and hike hours, then unions will rise again. On the other hand, if unions have outlasted their usefulness, we’ll find that out, too.
There is nothing wrong with experimentation. There is no shame in going through cycles, swinging the pendulum, whatever you want to call it. For some reason, the liberals, the progressives as they call themselves, have decided that the way they happened to find this planet is the way it ought to be forever and ever. Why is what happens to be going on at the time you were born the be-all and end-all? If unions are the bee’s knees, let them prove it. Engage in a little scientific endeavor. Liberals are big on science, right?
Experiment. Let stuff happen. Let the cream rise to the top, and all that. And if you want to improve the lives of millions of people through collective bargaining, I hear Asia calling you.
Image courtesy of digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net